Jason Becker's Non-Musical Inspirations

When I was a kid, I started looking outside of music for inspiration. I was lucky to get hip to that concept when I was 14.
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When I was a kid, I started looking outside of music for inspiration. I was lucky to get hip to that concept when I was 14. Well, not exactly lucky. It grew out of sadness over the divorce of my actor grandfather, Wayne Heffley, and his wife, Lynne. Motivated by those feelings— and without any thoughts about “music”—I got on my guitar and keyboard and wrote a song that I called, “Remember” (it is on my CD. Boy Meets Guitar). It’s a simple song, but those are often the best. Pieces of it later wound up on the songs “Speed Metal Symphony” and “Air.”

Sometimes, I would go outside in the mornings when the mood in the air was calm. I would take my guitar—no amp—and just listen to the birds. When I heard them make a cool melody and/or rhythm, I would figure it out on guitar. Just a few notes are all it takes to jumpstart the inspiration for a whole melody. That’s how I heard the first few notes of my song, “Opus Pocus.” I think it must have been two or three different birds. I did it with birds, but it can be anything: traffic, a river, or voices in a crowd (although these things would be more subtle than birds). Even a song that you hate can inspire you. That’s what happened with my piece, “Empire.” And, no, I won’t tell you which song!

My song “Rain” was inspired by—you guessed it—the rain. Well, by Jeff Beck, too—but not directly. I was sitting in the living room listening to, and looking at, the rain out the window. For some reason, that led to the first little phrase. I played it on guitar, and that got me going in that direction. I worked on the rest of the song for the next few hours, and then I went to my 4-track and recorded it. Later, I wrote chords to go under it. Once again, just a few notes got the creative juices flowing. Of course, it really helps to have some musical knowledge.

One day a few years ago, I spelled out “I love you” to my girlfriend Kristin. When I said it again in my head, I heard a little melody going with those three words. Over the next few days, I continued making up more words with melody in my head. I finally got to the computer, and I put the basic melody down into Logic Pro. It was very simple, but I kept building around it—letting it inspire me to take it in different directions. Now, that piece is over seven minutes long, with Chris Broderick playing the classical guitar parts. The working title is “Magic Woman,” and it will be on my next album. And all because I said, “I love you.”

Anything can inspire your creativity.

Jason Becker is a composer and guitarist whose work can be heard on his solo albums, and with Cacophony and David Lee Roth. Check out this sexy man’s story in the award-winning documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.

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